- 2 players up top .
- 3 players across the middle.
- 1 player behind the goal.
- The "basic standard international lacrosse" default set for most teams.
Strengths: The 2-3-1 lacrosse offense is a balanced formation that makes space for coordinated team motion as well as individual athletic freedom.
The 2-3-1 offense is relatively simple, giving clear, uncluttered spots where the middies and attackmen should go. This allows teams to implement motion plays where players can see space to fill in as the offense "breathes". It generally works better against Man-To-Man Defense but is also useful against a Zone, and can be used as an easy, safe way to find out which defense an opponent is running.
Because of its traditional and widespread use, if a player in a 2-3-1 motion set loses his place or forgets the play it often equally confuses the defense. In these situations, due to the spacing, teammates are usually in good position to help as an outlet or to receive a pass for a shot to score.
The spacing in a 2-3-1 also facilitates picks or "scrapes" that give individual players room for dodges for shots. Teammates are in position for strong Draw And Dump scoring looks or easy relief passes. Additionally, players are in good places to back each other up and maintain possession if there is a missed pass or a ground ball, and the offense is in a good formation to stop fast breaks and get back on defense if there is a turnover.
There is always a player in a strong position to back up shots in a 2-3-1, which gives even more of a green light to the offense to shoot and pressure the goal. Also, with a player always on the crease there is a constant threat of rebounds, goalie screens, or the open offensive player right at the goal to worry the defense.
A 2-3-1 also makes it possible for one strong attackman to captain the team from behind, providing field leadership and the threat of assists to keep the defense distracted away from what is going on in front of the goal while also being in a good spot to attack the cage from X.
Vulnerabilities: The balanced spacing of the 2-3-1 makes slides on defense uniform and easy to execute. An offense using a 2-3-1 needs to use motion to their advantage because if they stop moving the slides become extremely predictable and standard. Many coaches teach their zone defenses in practices against the 2-3-1 because the slides are so clear.
With so many players on the perimeter, a team in a 2-3-1 can be fabulous at moving the ball around the edge without ever develping a threat to score or attacking the goal. While the passes are at relatively easy distance and angles, a team needs to balance the safety of having the ball at the edges with risking probes of the defense that can lead to some scoring.
A defense facing a 2-3-1 can halt most offensive motion schemes simply by shutting off the player at X. If the offense is unable to transition the ball through the sole player at X they need an alternative plan or to go to a different set, because if the defense can get the offense to stop moving the defense can start to run more plays of their own to get the ball.